MAINA. The history of a “TWO-FAMILY” Company: from a small workshop to panettone artists “Made in Italy”

18 April 2021

Our first appointment of “Family Passions” is dedicated to Maina, which boasts over 50 years of history and over 100 million turnover. In the company, the second generation works alongside the founders, ensuring continuity in values and tradition with an innovative vision. All this has led Maina to be the second Italian production reality in the market for sweets for festivities,  while maintaining “family” values on which the company was founded in 1964.

Today we meet Dr. Ugo di Gennaro, Head of Marketing and Communication, son of Bruno, one of the founders of Maina. 

Maina. What is the origin of the name and why is the “bifamiliar” company?

“The history of Maina is, first of all, the history of two families: Di Gennaro, of Apulian origin, and Brandani, originally from Tuscany. In the middle of the 1950s, in the midst of the economic boom, the Gennaro Family emigrated from the province of Foggia in search for better jobs and prospects in Turin. In 1964, the small pastry workshop Maina in Via Catania was set here. A few years later the fate made the Gennaro family meet with the Brandani’s, who joined Maina concurrently with the company's choice to specialize in the festivities sweet”. 

Location. Why did you choose to develop business in a small town in Cuneo?

“The first act of this new course of the “two-family company” was in 1969, when the company opted for the purchase of a biscuit factory housed in a former convent in Fossano, in the province of Cuneo. Maina decides to renew the structures and the machinery and makes a courageous choice: He abandons the production of the numerous continuous products realized up to that moment (biscuits, sponge cake, brioche, savoiardi..) to specialize only in the production of leavened pastry for festivities, thus pointing to few references high quality, high-production technology (bakers and doves) , which still represent the “core business.” The intention is in fact, today as then, to concentrate on some sweets and to realize them with an unparalleling quality”. 

“The little thing made great”. What is the element of continuity in the transformation from small-scale craft to business of primary national importance?

“For a company, the transformation from craft to industrial companies is never a risk-free stepone of the dangers is, for example, that in this evolution those distinctive and familiar traits that connote the beginnings disappear. This has not happened at Maina, but the passion for quality continues to pass on from generation to generation”.

Tradition and innovation. What was the technological innovation that enabled the breakthrough?

“In 1984 an automatic mixing center was introduced, a real technological revolution for the production of bakery products, which allows to further increase the quality of the products, improve efficiency and standardize the production process. The decade ended with a historic milestone: In 1989, Maina became the first Italian company to produce the non-localized Pandoro in the north-east of the country. In 2016, a new production line was launched, dedicated to the production of mini Panettone and Pandoro in the 100g format. Today, despite the high technology and automation employed, in Maina the time and tradition remain the focal point: between leavening with only mother yeast, slow dough, artisan processing of hazelnut glaze and natural cooling, in order to make a sweet Maina, it takes in fact more than 60 hours. The same demands a century ago and beyond from the pastry chef.”

Sweets “Made in Italy”. What are the countries abroad where you eat more Maina products? 

“Today, Maina is present in 47 countries around the world, among which the most important are certainly the USA, Canada, Australia, Great Britain, Switzerland and Belgium. In these countries, Maina is mainly present with the panettone and pandoro, while the Easter doves are still not widely used internationally”.

 Tastes for foreigners. Are there products intended exclusively for foreign markets?

“From the very beginning, our export strategy has always been to propose us not only to foreign consumers of Italian origin who buy in small shops of specialities of the Bel Paese, but to propose us directly to consumers of the main chains of the big local distribution. And that is why new recipes were born, developed ad hoc for specific markets, such as Peanut butter Panettone for the United States or Panettone in flowpack with recipe and format ideal for use as French toast for Britain”.

Test invitation. What taste or innovative product would you suggest to taste to your consumer?

Every year, between Christmas and Easter, we make three 750 references that differ from each other by recipe, size, brand… It is therefore very difficult to choose one…Beyond the traditional product (panettone and pandoro without any kind of stuffing and covering), my favorite has always been, I would perhaps suggest one of our latest novelties, the Colomba citrus, blueberries and chocolate. This is a specialty born for the English market and then introduced last Easter also here in Italy: A dove wrapped in a crispy icing of dark chocolate and rich in candied oranges and clementines that combine with the intensity of cranberry and the strong taste of the orange liqueur. A very special combination that has met the approval of a wide range of our consumers”. 

Be at the forefront. How does the investment in an architecturally “futuristic” structure combine with what will come with tradition?

“At the same time as the 50-year history of the Maina, in 2014, the expansion of the Fossano plant began. The current plant, which rises over an area of about 100,000 m2, was designed by architect Gianni Arnaudo, internationally known for its works of industrial architecture and linked to the world of food and for pop design objects exhibited in many museums in the world. The whole intervention required a total investment of EUR 20 million, and changed the face of the site, modernized production lines and increased capacity by more than 30%. The image of the new establishment is the best representation of the reality of Maina: a modern company, technologically advanced but always anchored to traditions and family values”.

One last curiosity. How many Maina sweets do you bake roughly per day?

“The average is 120,000 a day, and in its first 50 years of history, Maina has baked over half a billion sweets!”.